IOWA CITY — So, Iowa was piņata’d a little bit on the interminable ESPN college football selection Sunday show.
The fourth spot in the College Football Playoff came down to Alabama and Ohio State. As you know, the Hawkeyes (7-5) handed the Buckeyes a 55-24 defeat on Nov. 4 at Kinnick Stadium. The Iowa loss was deemed Ohio State’s killing fault in the debate between the two national powers, with Alabama winning the fourth seed and the Buckeyes heading to the Cotton Bowl to face USC.
So, whenever Ohio State came up during the four-hour broadcast, the conclusion was repeatedly reached that, man, the Buckeyes really shouldn’t have lost to Iowa.
“If we had won out from that point, that’d be a feather in our cap, or at least something for me, personally, I would be proud of,” junior defensive end Parker Hesse said. “It’d be kind of saying, you know, whatever, ‘Screw you’ to the conference and the playoffs, we’re just here to win. You play every game to win. That was an unbelievable experience. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
The ESPN broadcast did its job. It started a fight between running back Akrum Wadley and one of his cousins. The cousin wasn’t buying Ohio State’s loss at Kinnick.
“I was trying to explain to him that it’s hard to play in Kinnick at night,” Wadley said. “I feel like we can take anyone in Kinnick at night. We were arguing, it was a big debate. He’s a big J.T. Barrett fan. It is what it is, you know?”
Iowa’s role on the College Football Playoff show ended there. The victory over Ohio State was a historic whupping and Iowa’s first victory over the Buckeyes since 2004, The reality is the Big Ten’s emphasis on controlling bowl sites makes it harder for a team to leap a few rungs in the selection process.
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Before 2014, yes, Iowa and its traveling fan base would’ve leapt Michigan State for the Holiday and Northwestern for the Music City. Now? Iowa finished 7-5 and will play in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 27 at Yankee Stadium in New York against Boston College (7-5), which won five of its last six after starting the season 2-4 with losses to Notre Dame and No. 1 Clemson.
After the Hawkeyes pounded Nebraska last Friday, Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said the majority of Iowa fans he had heard from wanted the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn. The ability to drive to the game appealed to Iowa fans, Barta said.
The Music City was the first second-tier bowl to chose on Sunday and it picked Northwestern, leaving Iowa to the Pinstripe.
“At the end of the day, hopefully our fans know, it’s not a selection process by the university to the bowls,” Barta said. “... So the Big Ten being in charge is really meant to be more of a principle setting process, and then letting the bowls select going from there. And that’s really how it’s unfolded. They still select. They just have principles that are a little bit different from what they were before we had the new bowl lineup.”
Barta knew he was working against Northwestern, which beat the Hawkeyes in overtime, 17-10, on Oct. 21 and finished 9-3. Northwestern wasn’t going to New York (it was there just last year) and it wasn’t falling in the bowl order.
“I talked about the fact that, you know, they beat us in overtime, but consider the wins that we had, and also, our fan base, our television ratings, and I shared all that with the Bowl in Nashville, as well as Holiday Bowl, as well as New York,” Barta said.
Social media reaction to the Pinstripe Bowl was tepid to say the least. Barta said there are 20,000 Iowa alums within a few hours drive of Yankee Stadium. Last year, Northwestern defeated Pitt in the Pinstripe with 37,918 fans in attendance.
The fact the game is in New York will shorten the trip, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. He doesn’t want the team spending an entire week stuck on a bus in New York traffic.
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A motivating factor for Ferentz going into this might be tying Hayden Fry as Iowa’s winningest coach. Ferentz’s next victory will tie Fry at 143 victories. No, that’s not a motivator. Ferentz is pretty up front about what he wants to get out of the Pinstripe. He made a few jokes on reading about Iowa’s five-bowl losing streak in newspapers (or online, probably online).
“I haven’t thought about it. I’d be really happy to tie, I can tell you that, just the total honestly, because that means we’re going to win this game, which would be really good,” Ferentz said. “To me the motivating factor to win this football game is for us to get our eighth win. You know, I’d like to send all of our seniors out with a win first and foremost. That’s one of many benefits of winning the Bowl game. That’s a good starting point right there. So that would make it a really, really good thing.”
The Pinstripe Bowl marks the first ever meeting between Iowa and Boston College. The Eagles finished 4-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Hawkeyes are 8-11 all-time against the ACC, but has won four straight against current members of the league, including a 24-14 win over No. 9 Georgia Tech at the 2010 Orange Bowl.
No one knew anything about Boston College on Sunday night. BC’s defensive coordinator is Jim Reid, who coached Iowa’s linebackers for three seasons (2013-2015).
“It’s going to be weird,” defensive tackle Nathan Bazata said. “He was a big part of our 2015 season coaching the linebackers. We might have to change some of our calls, but that’s part of sports.”
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